September 4, 2008

Tackling in secondary key versus spread

MADISON, Wis. - In 2007, the single most frustrating element to the Badger defense was consistently poor tackling. It was especially evident in each of the four losses UW suffered throughout the season at Illinois, at Penn State, at Ohio State and in the Outback Bowl against Tennessee.

In order for the cardinal and white to be successful in 2008, and buck the trend from last year, they will need to consistently improve on that aspect, especially in the secondary.

After week one, a 38-17 pounding of Akron, the Badgers feel they displayed a product that has improved upon last seasons miscues in the tackling department.

"I thought we tackled overall pretty good," UW secondary coach Kerry Cooks said following Wednesday's practice. "I can't remember exactly what I counted, but we had maybe two missed tackles, so I was very impressed.

"That's just something that's got to keep coming."

It is something that has to keep coming every single week, even against weaker opponents like the Badger's upcoming foe Marshall. The Thundering Herd like to spread their opponents out, a form of offense UW will see plenty of this season, which makes individual tackling, especially with the defensive backs, critical for success.

"Oh my gosh, you have too," Cooks said. "And that's what the spread does. Offensively, it forces you to make one on one tackles. If you're not good in space, you're going to have problems with that."

Marshall possesses wide receiver Darius Passmore, who arguably will be the first true test for the Badger secondary. Throwing aside Akron's dropped passes and overthrows, which clearly were dodged bullets, the UW secondary did a bang up job for most of the day. However, with sub 4.3 40-yard dash times, Passmore will gladly stretch the Badger defense and could potentially haul in the catches Akron was not able to and expose the secondary.

" It's just something that you look forward too," senior defensive back Allen Langford said. "You look at it as a challenge. You want to hopefully get your hand on him and slow him down. You want to play your technique sound every single play and you just want to intimidate him and get into his head."

Which may be easier said than done. If Marshall were to run similar routes against the Badgers like Akron did, many bubble screens and short routes, they could see the secondary scoot up and set up the big play.

Especially after seeing multiple Zips receivers get beyond the Badger defensive backs. Passmore could be in for a big day, much like his four reception, 111-yard outburst against Illinois State last weekend.

"I think you just play," strong safety Jay Valai said. "You've got to be aware of where he is. If you're aware of where a play is, you notice his abilities, (and) it's a whole lot easier.

"We're hungry, so that's the biggest thing. Just staying motivated, just knowing our call alignment, assignments and stuff like that."

One game in, one victory. The Badgers claimed the win even with a performance that was not anywhere near perfect in the secondary. With young players such as Mario Goins and Niles Brinkley receiving plenty of reps, anything can happen especially early in the season.

However, the seasoned veterans, heading into the game against Marshall and surely tougher games down the road, keep the newcomers focused and in tune with the game plan.

"You just got to be disciplined in your technique," Langford said. "You got to expect teams to take shots like those, you just got to read your keys every play. You've got to do just your job and just try not to do more than your job."

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